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A new wave of kidnapping is outweighing other worries of Nigerians

The wave of kidnapping in the country is now extremely alarming. From politicians, to judges, medical doctors, journalists, lecturers, businessmen, Nollywood actors, senior government officials and their close relatives—almost everyone is now at risk. A day hardly passes without reports of the kidnap of some prominent personalities or their relatives. And these are even the ones that make the headlines. There are so many others who are less prominent or not considered important enough to attract media attention. The fact of the matter is that in our country today, kidnapping has become a thriving criminal enterprise.

In the last two weeks alone, at least four high profile kidnap cases were recorded.Prof. Kamene Okonjo, the 83-year-old mother of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was kidnapped at her Ogwuashi- Uku Palace in Delta State. The dust of her abduction was yet to settle when Mrs Titilayo Enitan Rotimi, wife of former military governor of old Western State and former Nigerian Ambassador to United States, Brigadier-General Oluwole Rotimi, was kidnapped by unknown gunmen from the premises of her haulage company in Ibadan. And just last weekend, Nollywood actress and aide of Imo State governor, Ms. Nkiru Silvanus, was kidnapped with a N100 million ransom placed on her. About the time she regained her freedom last Thursday morning, some gunmen invaded Rimi town in Katsina where they abducted a French construction worker, Mr. Frances Colump, after killing two men, including his local guard, and injuring a policeman.

A time was when kidnapping was not this commonplace, when it was restricted to some antediluvian ritualists. Over the years, however, it has metamorphosed into a lucrative business enterprise, beginning with the abduction of expatriates as part of the Niger Delta agitation. Today, anybody with a value that could be placed on his or her head is a potential target. There are even reports that in some communities in the South-east kidnappings are carried out for ransoms as little as mobile phone recharge cards!

Yet there is no indication that the relevant authorities are tackling this challenge with the seriousness it deserves.The paucity of information on the number of arrests, prosecutions and convictions of the perpetrators of this criminal act clearly demonstrates the low level of importance attached to combating this thriving criminal enterprise. And clearly the police, the judiciary, legislature and other policy-makers could do more to checkmate this growing threat. It is interesting to note that one of the suspected kidnappers of Professor Okonjo, who was allegedly shot dead when police invaded their hideouts,was on bail for a similar case. Had his bail condition been stringent enough, and had he been closely monitored, he probably would not have been able to perpetrate a similar criminal act while on bail.

We must, however, highlight the fact that our various communities have a critical role to play in tackling this problem. Kidnappers are not ghosts. They are human beings and they live within communities. Members of our various communities, therefore, have roles to play in putting a stop to this rapidly growing criminal enterprise by providing useful information to security agencies. Also, our security agencies should act with urgency or deploy all necessary and available resources, not only when big names are victims. They must act and in time in all cases.

No doubt, the security challenges confronting the nation at this time are enormous. From the pockets of unending violent communal clashes, to the activities of deadly armed bandits and suicide bombers, the list is endless. Adding kidnapping to this inglorious list suggests a total collapse of law and order. This we can ill afford. We, therefore, call on all the relevant stakeholders to see this as a serious challenge that must be urgently tackled.